Food Waste

Ten years ago, I worked at a summer camp that encouraged campers to reduce – and even eliminate – their food waste. There was even the added motivation of torturing the counselors anytime the whole camp had zero waste at mealtime. Needless to say, I spent a few days that summer jumping into a cold lake fully clothed, having water balloons thrown at me, or some other form of torture the kids came up with. But, I did so happily because I know that reducing food waste is important.  That’s because doing so has a positive impact on a number of different, important facets of our day-to-day life on this planet.

The Positive Impact of Food Waste Reduction

It has an environmental impact by reducing the amount of waste that fills landfills. According to Michigan State University Extension, “33 million tons of food was thrown away [in 2010], making food waste the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills and incinerators.” Reducing waste also reduces the amount of energy and supplies needed to produce food.

Economically, reducing waste can save you money because, by taking the right steps, you’re buying less food, thus reducing your grocery bill and your dining out expenses. And your helping impact the world socially because the food you save from waste can then be donated to those in need.

The government sees the importance of reducing food waste as well. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the national food waste reduction goal is to cut food waste in half by 2030. You can be a part of that success. Here are a few tips you can use to stop wasting food in your household.

Tips to Reduce Your Food Waste

  1. Plan your meals for the week. Smart meal planning is a great way to ensure you use all the food you purchased.
  2. Look inside your fridge and pantry now. Is there any food that is getting close to its expiration date? If so, cook it now, or include it in this week’s meal plan.
  3. Shop smarter. Go to the store with a list, and do not deter from that list.
  4. Prepare all of your meals for the week at the beginning of the week. Some days, you just don’t feel like cooking. If that happens often, the ingredients you were going to use go bad before you cook them. By prepping your meals ahead of time, you won’t have to worry about being too tired or busy to cook.
  5. If you are dining out, see if you can get smaller portioned meals. I often order off the kid’s menu if the restaurant allows it. Restaurants often serve much larger portions than necessary, and many people don’t end up eating their full plate.
  6. Don’t judge produce by its outward appearance. It’s what’s inside that counts, right? Many people avoid the “ugly” fruit at the grocery store, but its innards are just as fresh and tasty as the better-looking fruit sitting right beside it. Many times, these are the foods that get thrown out at the grocery store.
  7. Donate your food. Any food that you know you’re not going to eat, donate it instead of throwing it away. You’ll be reducing waste and helping someone in need, so it’s win-win.
  8. Keep track of what you throw out. For at least one week, keep a list of everything you are throwing out. If you are throwing out a ton of bread, buy a half loaf next time. No one is eating those carrot sticks? Figure out a more popular healthy snack option.
  9. If you are always throwing out food because it is stale or freezer burned, try storing food in airtight containers.
  10. Take small amounts first. When at a buffet or self-serve meal, only take a small amount first. You can always return for more food. You can’t always put your food back.